This is one of the most readable first hand accounts of the Civil War written by one of Gen. Lee's top generals. Gen. John Brown Gordon was just 28 years old when the war began, yet by the end of the war, he was second in command only to Gen. Lee himself. Gen. Gordon was noted for his personal bravery and keen sense of leadership on the battlefield.
One of the interesting aspects of this account is that Gen. Gordon's wife, Phannie, accompanied him throughout the war, and is personally credited with saving his life when the General was wounded 5 times at Fredericksburg. Much of the penning of the book is also credited to his wife and it yields an interesting perspective to what is often dry reading.
General John Brown Gordon was an all-round great man--a valiant and distinguished soldier, an eminent statesman, a great orator, an author of merit, and a public-spirited and useful citizen. He was born in Upson County, Georgia, February 6, 1832. His father was the Rev. Zachary Herndon Gordon. The family was of Scotch extraction, and its members fought in the Revolutionary War. He received his education at the university of his native State, and by profession was a lawyer.
At the breaking out of the war, in 1861, he enlisted as a private soldier, and was elected captain of his company. His career was perhaps as brilliant as that of any officer in the Confederate army. In rapid succession he filled every grade--that of Major, Lieutenant-Colonel, Colonel, Brigadier-General, Major-General, and, near the end, was assigned to duty as Lieutenant-General (by authority of the Secretary of War), and while he never received the commission in regular form, he commanded, at the surrender at Appomattox, one half of the Army of Northern Virginia, under Robert E. Lee. At the close of the war he had earned the reputation of being perhaps the most conspicuous and personally valiant officer surviving, and the one generally regarded as most promising and competent for increased rank and larger command. His imposing and magnificent soldierly bearing, coupled with his splendid ringing voice and far-reaching oratory, made him the "White-plumed Knight of our Southland" and the "Chevalier Bayard of the Confederate Army." He had the God-given talent of getting in front of his troops and, in a few magnetic appeals, inspiring them almost to madness, and being able to lead them into the jaws of death. This was notably done at Fredericksburg, and again on the 12th of May, at the battle of Spottsylvania Court House. He greatly distinguished himself on many bloody fields. I mention now, as most prominent, the battles of Seven Pines, Sharpsburg or Antietam, the Wilderness, Spottsylvania Court House, Cedar Creek, Petersburg, and Appomattox. At Sharpsburg he was wounded five times, but would not leave his troops till the last shot laid him helpless and insensible on the field. A scholarly professor of history in one of our Southern universities recently stated that in his study of the great war on both sides he had found but one prominent general who, when he was in command, or when he led a charge, had never been defeated or repulsed, and that general was John B. Gordon. At Appomattox, just before the surrender, when Lee's army had "been fought to a frazzle" and was surrounded by the enemy, General Gordon, under the most discouraging conditions, led the last charge of the Army of Northern Virginia, and captured the intrenchments and several pieces of artillery in his front just before the surrender.
Commander-in-Chief United Confederate Veterans.
"The thing that made Gordon great--that which bound him close to men and made him dear to them-- was his mighty heart, strong as the ramparts of the hills through which he led his columns, gentle and pure as the kind zephyrs of his own Southland . . . . Honest search after the source of Gordon's superb power cannot fail to show that the fountain of his strength was not merely in his right arm, nor in his keen and flashing blade, nor yet in his alertness of mind and vigor of intellect, but in the meeting of these qualities with a pure spirit--these sterling virtues fused behind the crystal of his soul, forming the true mirror of knighthood . . . . He was master of many because master of himself."